This year was my first time attending the Mid-Atlantic Podcast Conference, or MAPCON, hosted by entrepreneur and podcaster, Joe Pardo, of Dreamers Podcast. I had such a wonderful experience at MAPCON that I decided to share my big takeaways with you. My hope is that these lessons will be helpful to you as well.

When I arrived at MAPCON, I didn’t know anyone personally. This was my first time attending a podcasting conference, so I didn’t know what to expect, and I didn’t really have any expectations other than hoping to meet other cool podcasters in my area.

I was, however, looking forward to meeting one of my mentors, Joel Boggess. Joel is the creator and co-host of the ReLaunch podcast, and he helped me with the launch of my podcast in 2015. I found out about this conference when Joel emailed his list to let us know that he would be speaking and invited us to meet him there. So naturally, Joel was one of the first people that I spotted as I approached the large conference room.

After Joel and I talked and took a picture together, I made my way to the second row from the front of the room. I’ve always been the student who sat in the front of the class, so that day would be no different.

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Joel Boggess was the first friendly face that I saw when I arrived at MAPCON.

From the opening ceremonies to closing remarks, I was fully engaged, learning a ton of valuable tips, and meeting incredible people. Unlike other conferences that I’ve attended, I felt like we were all there to make genuine connections and build new relationships within the podcasting community. Not once did I feel like we were in for a big pitch at the end to purchase a high-end product or program.

Even though MAPCON was created for podcasters and those who aspire to be one, the lessons that I’m going to share with you are helpful to any entrepreneur, regardless of where you are in your journey. Without any further ado, here are my 7 big takeaways from MAPCON 2016:

  1. “Don’t be boring.” This is what entrepreneur and host of the Solopreneur Hour podcast, Michael O’Neal taught us during his talk. Regardless of the type of podcast that you have (i.e. education, comedy, techie, etc.), you should lead with entertainment. After that, you can inject your other show elements. If your podcast is boring, you will lose your audience at the very beginning. Plus, you want your listeners to share your podcast and invite their friends to listen. They’re not going to do that if they can’t make it through a full episode.
  1. Stay in control of your interview. This was another tip from Michael O’Neal. It’s easy to unknowingly give your guest control by asking open-ended questions that result in 3-4 minute answers. Instead ask questions that get them to talk in stories about a specific point in their life or business. People remember stories and they like listening to them.
  1. Be yourself. The word we heard a lot at MAPCON 2016 was “authentic”. When podcasting or doing anything, don’t try to be anyone except for you. You’ll attract listeners to your podcast by giving them you. During her talk, founder and co-host of She Podcasts, Jessica Kupferman, spoke about selectivity. Listeners have thousands of podcasts at their fingertips. When your listeners choose your podcast, it’s because there’s something about you that they like. In other words, be yourself, and you’ll attract the people who are meant for you and your message.

Dave Jackson, founder of the School of Podcasting, talked about Howard Stern being the best interviewer of our time. “He’s polarized and you either love him or you hate him”, Dave explained. Howard doesn’t try to be everything to everyone. He does what he does, and he is who he is. He doesn’t make excuses or change up. On any given day, if you turn on his show, you can expect to get the raw, uncut truth as Howard Stern sees it. If you can recreate this level of authenticity in your podcast, then you’re well on your way to winning.

  1. Build your audience by taking your show on the road. This brilliant advice came from Niel Guilarte, entrepreneur and host of the All Things Post After the conference, I asked Niel how I could reach more listeners with my podcast, and I absolutely LOVE what he told me to do. Niel told me to take my show on the road and bring it to the people. Instead of waiting for them to find my podcast, I could bring it to them by organizing local meetings and interviewing guests in person. Or I could start attending conferences that cater to ambitious moms and women who want more, and interview them on the spot. This was something that I hadn’t thought of, but I plan to start doing this very soon. Think about how you can take your podcast on the road and attract more listeners in-person.
  1. Attend live events to find your guests. Michael O’Neal had all types of juicy nuggets for us at MAPCON. He told a story of how he once wanted a high-profile guest, but he knew that he would have to get past his gatekeepers in order to schedule an interview. To bypass all of that, Michael attended the same live event that his potential future guest was attending. The two of them were introduced by a third party, and Michael landed an interview. So if there’s someone who you really want on your show, or you’re looking for a specific type of guest, go where they are and meet them in person. You’ll have a better chance of getting an interview after you make a face-to-face connection.
  1. Never lie about your downloads. We live in a world where the number of downloads is often emphasized like it’s the end all be all. As a new podcaster, your numbers may not be where you want them to be yet. But it’s ok. You will get there. No matter how tempted you may be to “embellish your numbers” so you can attract guests or sponsors, Jessica Kupferman strongly advises against it. Honesty is always the best policy. You could easily do more harm than good by lying – especially if your potential sponsor pulls your card and asks to see a screenshot of your actual downloads from your podcast hosting account. Jessica has learned that all sponsors don’t care as much about downloads as they do about an engaged audience. You could still land a contract or get your high-profile guest on your show with lower numbers if you have an engaged audience. The most important thing is that you deliver valuable content for your listeners. Over time, your downloads will grow. When you get where you want to be, you’ll be able to leverage that and feel good about knowing that you maintained your integrity.
  1. Your business needs to have a podcast. Joel Boggess, co-host of ReLaunch, talked about why every business needs a podcast. “Podcasting is the wave to the future, and it gives you (the business owner) a way to deliver convenient, consistent content,” Joel explained. He went on to say that your show should provide solutions for your audience. As you get people asking you the same question over and over again, you can direct them to podcast episodes that dive into those topics. This will position you as an authority and people will respect and trust you.

I met these awesome guys while at MAPCON. Pictured from left to right: Nelson Duffle, me, John Bukenas, Sr., and Stefan Roots.

 MAPCON is now one of my favorite conferences by far! Being there was like a breath of fresh air. Joe Pardo did an excellent job of bringing a wonderful group of like-minded people to his event that was a lot of fun, provided a ton of value, and helped me make awesome connections. As I mentioned earlier, MAPCON is the first conference that I’ve attended where I didn’t feel like I was being set up for an expensive pitch at the end, and that’s priceless.

I’m looking forward to implementing what I learned, cultivating new friendships with the people I met, and also coming back next year. I hope to meet you there in 2017! For more information about MAPCON, visit http://podcastmidatlantic.com/.

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